Cyber Crime Review
Cyber Crime Review

November 2022
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District court finds no duty owed to copyright holders for unsecured wireless network owners

Cyber CrimesCyber Crimes
In AF Holdings, LLC v. Doe, No. C 12-2049 (N.D. Cal. 2012), the court held that a person owes no duty in securing their wireless network to a copyright holder whose works are illegally downloaded over the network.

AF Holdings claimed that Doe illegally downloaded their copyrighted video using an unsecured wireless network belong to Hatfield, Doe’s co-defendant. Because Hatfield failed to secure his wireless network, AF Holdings sued him for negligence, arguing he “had a ‘duty to secure his Internet connection,’ and that he ‘breached that duty by failing to secure his Internet connection.'”

The district court held that Hatfield had no duty to AF Holdings.

AF Holdings has not articulated any basis for imposing on Hatfield a legal duty to prevent the infringement of AF Holdings’ copyrighted works, and the court is aware of none. Hatfield is not alleged to have any special relationship with AF Holdings that would give rise to a duty to protect AF Holdings’ copyrights, and is also not alleged to have engaged in any misfeasance by which he created a risk of peril.

The allegations in the complaint are general assertions that in failing to take action to “secure” access to his Internet connection, Hatfield failed to protect AF Holdings from harm. Thus, the complaint plainly alleges that Hatfield’s supposed liability is based on his failure to take particular actions, and not on the taking of any affirmative actions. This allegation of non-feasance cannot support a claim of negligence in the absence of facts showing the existence of a special relationship.

The court also found that the claim is preempted under the Copyright Act.

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